Multinational sporting brand Nike has found themselves at the centre of a row over Islamophobia after allegedly refusing to print the words 'Islam' or 'Muslim' on a custom-made pair of sneakers. The NikeiD feature allows customers to build and buy custom-made footwear – however, printing the words "Islam" or "Muslim" is said to go against their guidelines.
A Nike fan discovered the customisation limitation when attempting to use the NikeiD feature on 11 February. Upon attempting to personalise his shoes with the words "Islam" or "Muslim", Nabeel Kaukab was met with a notice that stated this was not within Nike's guidelines.
New York-based Kaukab wrote on Facebook: "I was trying to buy a pair of Air Jordans and was checking out the customisation features, one of which includes the ability to put short text on them. As I was experimenting with different words to customise my shoes, I noticed that for Nike, neither Islam nor Muslim 'fit within our guidelines'."
Nike's guidelines for their NikeiD feature state that personalisations will be rejected if they contain profanity, inappropriate slang, insulting or discriminatory content, violent-inciting content, material that Nike wishes not to place on products, as well as content that violates another party's intellectual property rights.
Taking into consideration the guidelines issued on their website, Kaukab questioned whether Nike considered the words 'Islam' or 'Muslim' to incite violence or whether they don't want to place the words on their products. Kauab also said that he had tested other religious words on the site, such as 'Hindu', 'Jewish', 'Jesus' and 'Christ', all of which were allowed to be printed on the shoes. He also noted that while Islam and Muslim were filtered, offensive words such as ethnic slurs had been overlooked and could be printed.
However, Nike quickly took note of Kaukab's Facebook post and he received a response from a Nike representative one day later. In another Facebook post, Kaukab detailed how he had to give "serious kudos" to Nike for their "quick response and taking customer concerns seriously". He said he had been told that several members of the Nike team had read his Facebook post and that senior Muslim members of the organisation had been consulted on the issue.
Nike is now believed to be taking steps to amend their NikeiD feature, including immediately taking the words 'Muslim' and 'Islam' off the banned words list and setting up strategy sessions to discuss how they could further engage their Muslim customers.
Kaukab said: "Through mutually respectful, civil conversation we were able to have a dialogue with one of the largest, most influential companies on the planet and get real changes to take place within days."